Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the woman who spent nearly four years travelling alone through 25 countries

A few years ago, Ana Bakran set herself the unique challenge of travelling from Zagreb in her home country of Croatia to French Polynesia by hitchhiking alone. Having clocked up an astounding 70,000 kilometres and passing through 25 countries by car, truck, motorcycle, ferry, sailing boat, helicopter and horse, last year saw her reaching her destination.

Ana Passing through Johor Bahru to get to Singapore.
Ana hitchhiking in the south of Croatia. Image by Ana Bakran
Ana's final route, which took nearly four years to complete.
Ana’s final route, which took nearly four years to complete. Image by Ana Bakran
Ana hitching a ride in a helicopter in Australia.
Ana hitching a ride in a helicopter in Australia. Image by Ana Bakran

In 2013 Ana closed down her small digital marketing company in Croatia and decided to take off on the grand adventure. She chose Bora Bora as the final destination in order to make the journey even more challenging. It took nearly four years to complete from start to finish, and saw her travelling for free for the vast majority of the route. “I had few instances when I needed to pay for a ride – such as when border police in wouldn’t let me walk between two check-points into their country if I didn’t pay for a minibus across the border. My first year of travelling, I travelled with 18 different hitchhikers. The rest of my journey I hitchhiked alone. I got rides much faster when I travelled alone than when I had a buddy and the locals were willing to help me out more,” Ana told Lonely Planet Travel News. Throughout her time on the road, Ana got used to sleeping on the go, making use of parks, beaches, temples and the houses of friendly locals that invited her in.

Ana in Pamukkale in Turkey.
Ana in Pamukkale in Turkey. Image by Ana Bakran
Ana on a fishing boat from Maupiti to Bora Bora.
Ana on a fishing boat from Maupiti to Bora Bora.
Image by Ana Bakran
Ana and her friends sleeping by the highway in Greece.
Ana and her friends sleeping by the highway in Greece. Image by Ana Bakran

Ana funded her trip by using savings and making smart low-cost choices. If she ever ran out of money, she stopped in locations to work for a while. “I try to keep everything super simple. Over the years that has become my rule with pretty much all aspects of my life – travel included. I’ve noticed it does wonders to my level of happiness. You can’t be a planning freak if you travel by hitchhiking, because you depend on your drivers and it will drive you mad every time your plans fall apart, which is quite often. That’s why I don’t plan too much upfront and prefer to figure things out along the way,” she said.

While hitchhiking can be a common form of transportation in some regions, it is never entirely safe and travellers who choose to hitchhike are taking a risk. Ana said that the majority of her hitchhiking experiences were positive, but that she would suggest anyone taking part in it to be very cautious and alert as to who they accept rides from.

Ana met many friendly people on her travels, like these children in Cambodia.
Ana met many friendly people on her travels, like these children in Cambodia. Image by Ana Bakran
Ana plans to return to Bora Bora to write a book about her adventures.
Ana plans to return to French Polynesia to write a book about her adventures. Image by Ana Bakran
Some backpacking gear that was taken on the journey.
Some backpacking gear that was taken on the journey. Image by Ana Bakran

Some of Ana’s most unforgettable experiences include sleeping on a millionaire’s yacht in Porto Montenegro, pushing an old Soviet car through the Kyzylkum Desert, sleeping in an orphanage while volunteering in Thailand, travelling on a boat from Malaysia to Australia for seven months, and gold prospecting with two grandpas in the Australian bush. She intends to head back to French Polynesia soon to pitch a tent and write a book about her adventures over the past four years. You can keep up to date with Ana’s journey on her website.

 
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